Part 13 of my ongoing survey of the follies of many modern day Jesuits. Georgetown University, founded in 1789, is the oldest Jesuit college in the United States. Last week it found itself at the center of the debate over the HHS Mandate. How the powers that be at Georgetown reacted to all of this is instructive.
On February 16, 2012 Representative Darrell Issa (R. CA), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing on the ramifications of the HHS Mandate in regard to religious freedom. Democrats had the opportunity to present witnesses. Initially they were going to have Barry Lynn, a Methodist minister and Leftist political activist, and head of the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, but for some reason that fell through for the Democrats. They then proposed Sandra Fluke, identified as a third year law student at Georgetown. Issa refused to allow her to testify on the grounds that she wasn’t testifying about the religious liberty issue but rather about a perceived need for contraception. The Democrats, who realized that they were in trouble on the religious liberty issue, used this as an argument against the hearings, arguing that women were banned from the hearings as speakers. This was a lie, as there were two panels which testified in opposition to the Mandate at the hearing. The second panel included Dr. Allison Garrett and Dr. Laura Champion who testified as to the dangers that the HHS Mandate poses to religious liberty.
On February 23, 2012, Nancy Pelosi (D.CA), minority leader, organized a Democrats only “hearing” at which Sandra Fluke gave her testimony. Go here to read that testimony. Among other statements she said that in three years contraceptives could cost a law student three grand.
The idea that someone at Georgetown Law School, an elite school that costs over 50k a year to attend, was crying poverty over the alleged cost of $1,000.00 a year, a sum about $800-$900 too high in relationship to the actual cost, to make illicit whoopee has its comedic possibilities, and this was seized upon by Rush Limbaugh on Wednesday February 29:
What does it say about the college co-ed Sandra Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex, what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? We’re the pimps. (interruption) The johns? We would be the johns? No! We’re not the johns. (interruption) Yeah, that’s right. Pimp’s not the right word. Okay, so she’s not a slut. She’s “round heeled.” I take it back.
This caused an uproar and on Thursday March 1, John J. DeGioia, the first lay President of Georgetown, released this statement:
Dear Members of the Georgetown Community:
There is a legitimate question of public policy before our nation today. In the effort to address the problem of the nearly fifty million Americans who lack health insurance, our lawmakers enacted legislation that seeks to increase access to health care. In recent weeks, a question regarding the breadth of services that will be covered has focused significant public attention on the issue of contraceptive coverage. Many, including the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, have offered important perspectives on this issue.
In recent days, a law student of Georgetown, Sandra Fluke, offered her testimony regarding the proposed regulations by the Department of Health and Human Services before a group of members of Congress. She was respectful, sincere, and spoke with conviction. She provided a model of civil discourse. This expression of conscience was in the tradition of the deepest values we share as a people. One need not agree with her substantive position to support her right to respectful free expression. And yet, some of those who disagreed with her position – including Rush Limbaugh and commentators throughout the blogosphere and in various other media channels – responded with behavior that can only be described as misogynistic, vitriolic, and a misrepresentation of the position of our student.
In our vibrant and diverse society, there always are important differences that need to be debated, with strong and legitimate beliefs held on all sides of challenging issues. The greatest contribution of the American project is the recognition that together, we can rely on civil discourse to engage the tensions that characterize these difficult issues, and work towards resolutions that balance deeply held and different perspectives. We have learned through painful experience that we must respect one another and we acknowledge that the best way to confront our differences is through constructive public debate. At times, the exercise of one person’s freedom may conflict with another’s. As Americans, we accept that the only answer to our differences is further engagement.
In an earlier time, St. Augustine captured the sense of what is required in civil discourse: “Let us, on both sides, lay aside all arrogance. Let us not, on either side, claim that we have already discovered the truth. Let us seek it together as something which is known to neither of us. For then only may we seek it, lovingly and tranquilly, if there be no bold presumption that it is already discovered and possessed.”
If we, instead, allow coarseness, anger – even hatred – to stand for civil discourse in America, we violate the sacred trust that has been handed down through the generations beginning with our Founders. The values that hold us together as a people require nothing less than eternal vigilance. This is our moment to stand for the values of civility in our engagement with one another.
John J. DeGioia President Georgetown University
The faculty of the Georgetown Law School released a statement in support of Sandra Fluke and it may be read here.
Limbaugh, losing advertisers and coming under fire from all quarters, retreated on Saturday with this statement:
For over 20 years, I have illustrated the absurd with absurdity, three hours a day, five days a week. In this instance, I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation. I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke.
I think it is absolutely absurd that during these very serious political times, we are discussing personal sexual recreational activities before members of Congress. I personally do not agree that American citizens should pay for these social activities. What happened to personal responsibility and accountability? Where do we draw the line? If this is accepted as the norm, what will follow? Will we be debating if taxpayers should pay for new sneakers for all students that are interested in running to keep fit? In my monologue, I posited that it is not our business whatsoever to know what is going on in anyone’s bedroom nor do I think it is a topic that should reach a Presidential level.
My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.
Rush of course was right to apologize. Fluke’s testimony does not indicate that she is a slut, although she apparently prizes the “right” to sleep around highly enough to wish to have the taxpayers pay for it. That is an idiotic perspective, but not one that indicates that she is exercising the “right” to have government subsidized sex herself. However, the media narrative was incomplete on this little tempest, and the Georgetown president knew that it was incomplete.
What he knew is that Ms. Fluke is a hard-core pro-abort activist, and not some doe-eyed co-ed with some dopey ideas who deserves to be treated with kid gloves after she wandered into the public arena.
As a student at Cornell and treasurer of a a pro-choice organization at the school, Sandra Fluke, helped shut down a pro-life speech on Cornell’s campus by counter protesting. She argued that a pro-life organization at Cornell was about “manipulating [students’] emotions” with misleading statistics about abortion. But when it is her turn to speak on Capitol Hill, the third-year Georgetown Law Student demands she gets her say in a hearing that has nothing to do with birth control.
Fluke, who was awarded a B.S. in Policy Analysis & Management, and a Feminist, Gender, & Sexuality Studies degree from Cornell in 2003, has since become a cause celebre among the political left-wing because she wasn’t allowed to testify in a congressional hearing.
She is the past president of the Georgetown branch of Law Students for Reproductive Justice, a pro-abort pressure group. She chose to attend Georgetown in order to challenge the policy of Georgetown in not providing contraceptive coverage to students, and has been a leader in efforts to have Georgetown change its policy.
She is a pro-abort activist, directly opposed to the teaching of the Church, attending a Jesuit university, and that is precisely why she was picked by the Democrats to testify. However in his little supportive statement of Sandra Fluke, the president of Georgetown forgot to mention any of that. His sole concern was that a radio entertainer had used harsh words against Sandra Fluke for her mendacious testimony. The alarm sent up by the Bishops over the HHS Mandate as a threat to religious liberty was shoved aside as merely one “important perspective” among many.
Religious liberty and the teachings of the Church are apparently of small concern to the powers that be at Georgetown in comparison to the monumental issue of Limbaugh saying a few bad things about Sandra Fluke and her crusade to have someone else pay for consequence-free sex. One can only imagine how Saint Ignatius Loyola is viewing from Heaven the dismal ending of the movement he started more than four centuries ago. As for President DeGioia, since he is fond of quotes from Saint Augustine, perhaps he might wish to ponder this one: “Relations with one’s wife, when conception is deliberately prevented, are as unlawful and impure as the conduct of Onan who was slain.” I doubt if DeGioia is as fond of CS Lewis, but this quote also seems apropos, although it is aimed at clergy I think it would also apply to heads of Catholic universities:
“It is your duty to to fix the lines (of doctrine) clearly in your minds: and if you wish to go beyond them you must change your profession. This is your duty not specially as Christians or as priests but as honest men. There is a danger here of the clergy developing a special professional conscience which obscures the very plain moral issue. Men who have passed beyond these boundary lines in either direction are apt to protest that they have come by their unorthodox opinions honestly. In defense of those opinions they are prepared to suffer obloquy and to forfeit professional advancement. They thus come to feel like martyrs. But this simply misses the point which so gravely scandalizes the layman. We never doubted that the unorthodox opinions were honestly held: what we complain of is your continuing in your ministry after you have come to hold them. We always knew that a man who makes his living as a paid agent of the Conservative Party may honestly change his views and honestly become a Communist. What we deny is that he can honestly continue to be a Conservative agent and to receive money from one party while he supports the policy of the other.”
Update I: Sandra Fluke calls Limbaugh’s policy insufficient. I am shocked, shocked!
Update II: Ann Althouse is liveblogging Rush’s show and it is fascinating. Go here to read it.
Update III: Sandra Fluke, according to a law review article she coauthored at Georgetown, believes this is discrimination:
I await with eager anticipation the Saint Augustine quote that DeGioia can come up with in reference to that!